The other night, as frequently happens, I was staring at my computer screen and feeling stuck in the mire of my own writing. Sometimes grabbing a book at random from my shelf and reading for a few minutes helps to snap me out of it, so that's what I did. Raymond Carver, I decided. I turned to a story I'd never read before—"Feathers"—and prepared to be schooled.
Instead of schooled, I was annoyed. It was as if Mr. Carver had written down disparate items on slips of paper, placed them in a hat, shook them up, pulled out three, and then refused to get up from his typewriter until he had forced a story out. In this case, the three items were 1) a peacock; 2) an ugly baby; and 3) a plaster mold of bad teeth. When I finished reading I said to no one, "That was ca-rrrrap."
Of course, it's two days later and I haven't made any progress on my story because all I can think about is "Feathers." Which is probably why Raymond Carver is/was Raymond Carver, and I am just me. Lesson learned.